Ashes 2013-14: Michael Clarke says Australia can play even better than in Brisbane
Australia are trying desperately to avoid getting ahead of themselves. They have England precisely where they want them, they are in front in an Ashes series for the first time in seven years, but they sense that it could all yet go horribly wrong.
If the home side can win or draw at Adelaide in the second Test starting on Thursday, then they will go to Perth with a spring in their step. If The Gabba at Brisbane is a fortress for Australia, the Waca where England are concerned is an impenetrable vault.
But Michael Clarke, Australia's captain, was entertaining no such thoughts, even after he had to miss training having injured his right ankle during fielding practice on Monday. Perth is 2,793 miles from Adelaide but for Clarke it might as well be in another country.
"We haven't really spoken about Perth to be honest, our focus is certainly on this Test match," he said. "Obviously we've got some confidence and momentum from Brisbane but we know it's a different wicket, we know England's a very strong team, we have to come out and start the Test very well. Our focus is certainly on this Test and trying to perform as well as we did in Brisbane."
If that happens and England once more capitulate before the hostility of Mitchell Johnson and his pals, the game will be up. The spirit will assuredly drain from the tourists quicker than it takes to put in a drop-in pitch.
"I have no doubt they'll come back extra hard – they're a classy team," Clarke said. "The best teams in the world, that's what they do. You can't win every game you play, it's a tough game and when you do lose, generally you do come back tougher."
Clarke added: "I'm really confident we can play better than we did in Brisbane and that's been a big focus of our training in the last couple of days. So I think we're in for a really exciting Test match."
A statement from Cricket Australia confirmed that Clarke will be fit to lead out his side, but now everyone is waiting to discover how the pitch plays. It is the first drop-in track ever used at Adelaide, transplanted 10 weeks ago from the adjacent No 2 Oval, where it has been sitting for 18 months. Damien Hough, the groundsman, is confident that it will display the assets of a more conventional Oval pitch.
"Hopefully it will be a typical Adelaide Oval pitch, something that's going to be good to bat on, something that will crumble slowly as the game goes on," he said. "It would be nice to have a competitive game that goes into the last day with a winner."
Two Sheffield Shield games have been played on other drop-in pitches at the ground this season and both have ended in draws. Only 55 of 80 available wickets have been taken, 28 to spin.
Hough believes, however, that the extra day for the match and the extra preparation time will provide the combination necessary for the pitch to wear with sufficient encouragement for bowlers. The Oval and drop-ins are on trial.
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